Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of sawm (fasting), prayer, reflection and community. For me, as a passionate member of the Muslim community, I was keen to share some of the magic of this cherished annual event with a short blog on the topic.
Ramadan is a commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad's first revelation. The annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam and lasts twenty-nine or thirty days, from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next. This year it is between 24th April to 24th May and during this time our community shares a wealth of important practises.
We have a predawn meal referred to as suhur, and the nightly feast that breaks the fast is called iftar. During this time we must abstain from food and drink, this is to gain a greater sense of self control and closeness to God. Although Muslims can fast at other times of the year, Ramadan is the only time when fasting is fardh (obligatory), meaning all able Muslims must engage in the practise. However, there are exemptions to the obligation, for example, travel, severe illness or pregnancy.
The spiritual rewards of fasting known as thawab are believed to be multiplied during Ramadan. Due to this, Muslims refrain not only from food and drink, but also all forms of sinful behaviour. Ramadan is valued by Muslims as a time of spiritual reflection, self-amelioration, heightened devotion to God and worship consisting of prayer (known as salah), the recitation of the Quran - our holy book - and charitable deeds as emphasised in the prophet's sayings (hadith), such that even "A good word is charity". This is done to strive for peace and purity in one's self and within the wider community.
To conclude the month, there is a special three-day festival. This is called Eid al-Fitr - the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. This begins when the first sight of the new moon is seen in the sky. The significance of this day is manifested in togetherness, as the celebration is usually spent with family, through the exchanging of gifts and eating together. Furthermore, the significance is also represented within the Ummah (Muslim community), Muslims will pray in congregation and greet each other by saying "May the peace and blessings of God be upon you" to not only celebrate the end of fasting, but to also thank Allah for the help and strength that he gave them throughout the previous month.
Ramadan is important to me because it is a time for me to lose weight (only joking).
Ramadan is important to me as it represents the devotion and commitment to God within a person's spirituality and the unity of the wider community. It is a time where all Muslims can engage in charity by aiding those who are less fortunate and communal activities, such as, in breaking their fast at the time of iftar with others at the mosque or even some hosting meals to bring people together. It is also a time of reflection and how you can better yourself as a Muslim to develop a stronger sense of self-control and more profound connection with God.
To all of our communities across the world, Ramadan Mubarak.
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